EEC 20, 21st July 2005

Well not a lot has been happening. Here is the view from my front door.

I've been plodding on with the wall, as I write it's almost finished, well, the building bit is nearly done, I still have to put a surfacing on the whole of the back of the house, plus I have to continue the wood finishing under the roof down above the reconstruction, I have to do the same thing on the front. I found out the wooden pillar halfway along the workshop/second bedroom-to-be wall is rotted at the bottom, I'll replace that with a concrete column. While I had the chance I crawled along and looked into the main roof space and confirmed that there was good fibre glass insulation there. I would guess these beams are from the late 1700's.

While I was up there I put in a couple of rolls of fibre glass over the bathroom area, that's a secondary roof space, which had not been insulated. I've not actually done a lot of wall this week, it's been the festival of country music at Mirande, with balloon meet Wednesday 13th to Sunday 17th. They were all nice gentle flights, with about 20 balloons in all.

All those fields are landable and without animals. Except of course the darker green areas which are woods and not the best of landing spots. But they are nice to fly over. I made 3 flights with G-BERT, first flight 26 February 1977, photo taken two years ago in Montana,

and then one flight with G-BDSK Carousel 2, first flight 9th April 1976, 316 total flying hours, photo taken just now. The photo is not very good, the balloon was not completely full and I was rushed, none of the helpers knew anything about balloons so I did not want to dash back, heat it up some more, then take another photo.

But it passed the grab test, needed for the annual inspection, and everything else looked OK. It flew very well, considering it is a few years since it last come out of the bag, very little gas consumption, we flew almost 45 minutes and there was over 30% propane left in the first (10 gallon aluminium) tank. Of course, this balloon, aluminium coated inside the top, triangular Velcro rip, when it was new would normally fly 1 hour 15 minutes on the first Worthington tank. I was intrigued to note that the whitish substance on the sold blue colour top half seemed to be salt. Tasted like salt anyway. I don't know where that came from, it was nowhere near the sea when I last flew it.

The weather has been quite hot, evening temperatures around 30C, which meant I could only fly solo in Bert, but one morning when it was a lot cooler I took Yokiko, a Japanese friend of the Lafourcade family, and the evening I flew Carousel 2 I flew with Claudita, who was helping out at the balloon meet. Bert is a 56, and Carousel 2 a 65, which since the latter is a touch larger makes it possible to fly with a passenger.

The festival itself was, to me, strange. Thousands of people there, and at 25 Euros ($30) per day it is not cheap. The music I found strange, various sorts of rock with insidious beat, performed on one of these modern high huge stages with TV screens at each side. There was lots of line dancing by the spectators, there were several areas with a board floor to allow the dancing. It's called Western Dance, each set being a series of very complex movements and steps, performed in time by up to a hundred people. I can hardly imagine how they thought up so many different ways to make these different steps. Strange way to pass the time, learning all these intricate steps. They probably think the same about people flying balloons. Linda Gray, Sue Ellen from Dallas, was the guest celebrity and appeared on stage for about 5 minutes each day, seemingly doing nothing much else than laughing and smiling, although one day she appeared with a camera and took flash photos of everybody on the stake and several views of the audience. I just looked up her web site, she's only four years younger than me, so hey, she looks pretty good for that age. Nearly as good as my sister who is 6 years younger than me..............

I have some minor work to do on the burners. One day I took the single burner since is a touch lighter than the double but did not use it because the pilot light was not strong enough, the jet must be partially blocked. Then on the last flight with the double I noticed the main blast valve was not shutting down properly, there was just a trickle of flame persisting for a few minutes after I've closed the valve. I've recently renewed the seals, because of that problem, looks like I'll have to replace the whole valve to get a cure. I've got a spare, no big deal.

Thursday evening the kittens arrived in the house, probably following their mother. Since it is not a good thing to have a lot of feral cats roaming around I took them to the vet to be put down. My neighbour suggested taking them away and letting them loose in the forest and letting nature take it's course. In other words, let them be eaten by something. Or worse, maybe partly eaten. Certainly, it would have been a cheaper course of action. It is not a pleasant thing to do, taking them to the vet, either for me, taking the kittens, or for the vet, who presumably took up training to be a vet because he wanted to save animals. But it's done now, and Monday morning I have an appointment to take Little Cat 2, their mother, to the vet for sterilisation.

I wasted most of Monday morning trying to catch the little cat. I think she realised something was afoot and scarpered. I rang the vet to say I couldn't make the appointment but no sooner had I managed to say I had an appointment at 11 am for sterilisation of a cat, before I had chance to say anything else, I was told, no that was impossible, operations were only done at 8.30. But your colleague, the receptionist booked me in I said, in front of the vet. They were both wrong she said, we only do operations at 8.30. Well. Saved me having to say I couldn't catch the cat.

I spent the afternoon trying to entice little cat to come home, and Tuesday finished the wall. I also pulled out the rotten support post. Here's the inside view. Note that there are no longer big holes in the end wall. Just in the side where I pulled out the post and some loose bricks.

And the finished view from outside.....

Well, it's not really "finished" of course. The whole of the back wall of the house needs re surfacing and the protruding beams need covering. Plus a couple of other jobs which in the general sphere of things are not worth mentioning. Not to mention tidying up. But it'll do for the time being.

The little window is the bathroom, it's the roof above there where I put the 20 cm fibreglass insulation.

Wednesday the Tour de France passed by. A quick zip and the leading bunch of 17 riders sped by. I just had chance to check Lance Armstrong was not there and they had gone.

About 15 minutes later the peleton arrived.

Followed by some spare bikes

I got back to the van, asked to borrow a screwdriver from a car next to mine. I got on fine in French with the driver until he turned to his wife and said "a tournevis - that's a screwdriver isn't it?" I'd found an Englishman! I needed the screwdriver of course because I'd locked my van with the keys in the ignition. I generally don't lock my van or take my keys out of the ignition. I must remember. If I lock the van, take they keys. The screwdriver? I keep a spare key taped inside one of the rear lights, I need a screwdriver to remove the cover.

Best regards

David Barker
Mirande, France

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